List Of Contents | Contents of George Walker At Suez, by Anthony Trollope
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exact is simply a fool in their estimation, to the extent of that
which he loses.  In all this, they are immeasurably inferior to us
who have had Christian teaching.  But in one thing they beat us.
They always know how to maintain their personal dignity.

Look at my friend and partner Judkins, as he stands with his hands
in his trousers pockets at the door of our house in Friday Street.
What can be meaner than his appearance?  He is a stumpy, short,
podgy man; but then so also was my Arab friend at Suez.  Judkins is
always dressed from head to foot in a decent black cloth suit; his
coat is ever a dress coat, and is neither old nor shabby.  On his
head he carries a shining new silk hat, such as fashion in our
metropolis demands.  Judkins is rather a dandy than otherwise,
piquing himself somewhat on his apparel.  And yet how mean is his
appearance, as compared with the appearance of that Arab;--how mean
also is his gait, how ignoble his step!  Judkins could buy that Arab
out four times over, and hardly feel the loss; and yet were they to
enter a room together, Judkins would know and acknowledge by his
look that he was the inferior personage.  Not the less, should a
personal quarrel arise between them, would Judkins punch the Arab's
head; ay, and reduce him to utter ignominy at his feet.

Judkins would break his heart in despair rather than not return a
blow; whereas the Arab would put up with any indignity of that sort.
Nevertheless Judkins is altogether deficient in personal dignity.  I
often thought, as the hours hung in Egypt, whether it might not be
practicable to introduce an oriental costume in Friday Street.

At this moment, as the Arab gentleman entered the cavernous coffee-
room, I felt that I was greatly the inferior personage.  He was
followed by four or five others, dressed somewhat as himself; though
by no means in such magnificent colours, and by one gentleman in a
coat and trousers.  The gentleman in the coat and trousers came
last, and I could see that he was one of the least of the number.
As for myself, I felt almost overawed by the dignity of the stout
party in the turban, and seeing that he came directly across the
room to the place where I was seated, I got upon my legs and made
him some sign of Christian obeisance.

I am a little man, and not podgy, as is Judkins, and I flatter
myself that I showed more deportment, at any rate, than he would
have exhibited.

I made, as I have said, some Christian obeisance.  I bobbed my head,
that is, rubbing my hands together the while, and expressed an
opinion that it was a fine day.  But if I was civil, as I hope I
was, the Arab was much more so.  He advanced till he was about six
paces from me, then placed his right hand open upon his silken
breast,- and inclining forward with his whole body, made to me a bow
which Judkins never could accomplish.  The turban and the flowing
robe might be possible in Friday Street, but of what avail would be
the outer garments and mere symbols, if the inner sentiment of
personal dignity were wanting?  I have often since tried it when
alone, but I could never accomplish anything like that bow.  The
Arab with the flowing robe bowed, and the other Arabs all bowed
also; and after that the Christian gentleman with the coat and
trousers made a leg.  I made a leg also, rubbing my hands again, and
added to my former remarks that it was rather hot.

"Dat berry true," said the porter in the dirty dressing-gown, who
stood by.  I could see at a glance that the manner of that porter
towards me was greatly altered, and I began to feel comforted in my
wretchedness.  Perhaps a Christian from Friday Street, with plenty
of money in his pockets, would stand in higher esteem at Suez than
at Cairo.  If so, that alone would go far to atone for the apparent
wretchedness of the place.  At Cairo I had not received that
attention which had certainly been due to me as the second partner
in the flourishing Manchester house of Grimes, Walker, and Judkins.

But now, as my friend with the beard again bowed to me, I felt that
this deficiency was to be made up.  It was clear, however, that this
new acquaintance, though I liked the manner of it, would be attended
with considerable inconvenience, for the Arab gentleman commenced an
address to me in French.  It has always been to me a source of
sorrow that my parents did not teach me the French language, and
this deficiency on my part has given rise to an incredible amount of
supercilious overbearing pretension on the part of Judkins--who
after all can hardly do more than translate a correspondent's
letter.  I do not believe that he could have understood that Arab's
oration, but at any rate I did not.  He went on to the end, however,
speaking for some three or four minutes, and then again he bowed.
If I could only have learned that bow, I might still have been
greater than Judkins with all his French.

"I am very sorry," said I, "but I don't exactly follow the French
language when it is spoken."

"Ah! no French!" said the Arab in very broken English, "dat is one
sorrow."  How is it that these fellows learn all languages under the
sun?  I afterwards found that this man could talk Italian, and
Turkish, and Armenian fluently, and say a few words in German, as he
could also in English.  I could not ask for my dinner in any other
language than English, if it were to save me from starvation.  Then
he called to the Christian gentleman in the pantaloons, and, as far
as I could understand, made over to him the duty of interpreting
between us.  There seemed, however, to be one difficulty in the way
of this being carried on with efficiency.  The Christian gentleman
could not speak English himself.  He knew of it perhaps something
more than did the Arab, but by no means enough to enable us to have
a fluent conversation.

And had the interpreter--who turned out to be an Italian from
Trieste, attached to the Austrian Consulate at Alexandria--had the
interpreter spoken English with the greatest ease, I should have had
considerable difficulty in understanding and digesting in all its
bearings, the proposition made to me.  But before I proceed to the
proposition, I must describe a ceremony which took place previous to
its discussion.  I had hardly observed, when first the procession
entered the room, that one of my friend's followers--my friend's
name, as I learned afterwards, was Mahmoud al Ackbar, and I will
therefore call him Mahmoud--that one of Mahmoud's followers bore in
his arms a bundle of long sticks, and that another carried an iron
pot and a tray.  Such was the case, and these two followers came
forward to perform their services, while I, having been literally
pressed down on to the sofa by Mahmoud, watched them in their
progress.  Mahmoud also sat down, and not a word was spoken while
the ceremony went on.  The man with the sticks first placed on the
ground two little pans--one at my feet, and then one at the feet of
his master.  After that he loosed an ornamented bag which he carried
round his neck, and producing from it tobacco, proceeded to fill two
pipes.  This he did with the utmost gravity, and apparently with
very peculiar care.  The pipes had been already fixed at one end of
the stick, and to the other end the man had fastened two large
yellow balls.  These, as I afterwards perceived, were mouth-pieces
made of amber.  Then he lit the pipes, drawing up the difficult
smoke by long painful suckings at the mouthpiece, and then, when the
work had become apparently easy, he handed one pipe to me, and the
other to his master.  The bowls he had first placed in the little
pans on the ground.

During all this time no word was spoken, and I was left altogether
in the dark as to the cause which had produced this extraordinary
courtesy.  There was a stationary sofa--they called it there a
divan--which was fixed into the corner of the room, and on one side
of the angle sat Mahmoud al Ackbar, with his feet tucked under him,
while I sat on the other.  The remainder of the party stood around,
and I felt so little master of the occasion, that I did not know
whether it would become me to bid them be seated.  I was not master
of the entertainment.  They were not my pipes.  Nor was it my
coffee, which I saw one of the followers preparing in a distant part
of the room.  And, indeed, I was much confused as to the management
of the stick and amber mouth-piece with which I had been presented.
With a cigar I am as much at home as any man in the City.  I can
nibble off the end of it, and smoke it to the last ash, when I am
three parts asleep.  But I had never before been invited to regale
myself with such an instrument as this.  What was I to do with that
huge yellow ball?  So I watched my new friend closely.

It had manifestly been a part of his urbanity not to commence till I
had done so, but seeing my difficulty he at last raised the ball to
his mouth and sucked at it.  I looked at him and envied the gravity
of his countenance, and the dignity of his demeanour.  I sucked
also, but I made a sputtering noise, and must confess that I did not
enjoy it.  The smoke curled gracefully from his mouth and nostrils
as he sat there in mute composure.  I was mute as regarded speech,
but I coughed as the smoke came from me in convulsive puffs.  And
then the attendant brought us coffee in little tin cups--black
coffee, without sugar and full of grit, of which the berries had
been only bruised, not ground.  I took the cup and swallowed the
mixture, for I could not refuse, but I wish that I might have asked
for some milk and sugar.  Nevertheless there was something very
pleasing in the whole ceremony, and at last I began to find myself
more at home with my pipe.

When Mahmoud had exhausted his tobacco, and perceived that I also
had ceased to puff forth smoke, he spoke in Italian to the
interpreter, and the interpreter forthwith proceeded to explain to
me the purport of this visit.  This was done with much difficulty,
for the interpreter's stock of English was very scanty--but after
awhile I understood, or thought I understood, as follows:- At some
previous period of my existence I had done some deed which had given
infinite satisfaction to Mahmoud al Ackbar.  Whether, however, I had
done it myself, or whether my father had done it, was not quite
clear to me.  My father, then some time deceased, had been a
wharfinger at Liverpool, and it was quite possible that Mahmoud
might have found himself at that port.  Mahmoud had heard of my
arrival in Egypt, and had been given to understand that I was coming
to Suez--to carry myself away in the ship, as the interpreter
phrased it.  This I could not understand, but I let it pass.  Having
heard these agreeable tidings--and Mahmoud, sitting in the corner,
bowed low to me as this was said--he had prepared for my acceptance
a slight refection for the morrow, hoping that I would not carry
myself away in the ship till this had been eaten.  On this subject I
soon made him quite at ease, and he then proceeded to explain that
as there was a point of interest at Suez, Mahmoud was anxious that I
should partake of the refection somewhat in the guise of a picnic,
at the Well of Moses, over in Asia, on the other side of the head of
the Red Sea.  Mahmoud would provide a boat to take across the party
in the morning, and camels on which we would return after sunset.
Or else we would go and return on camels, or go on camels and return
in the boat.  Indeed any arrangement would be made that I preferred.
If I was afraid of the heat, and disliked the open boat, I could be
carried round in a litter.  The provisions had already been sent
over to the Well of Moses in the anticipation that I would not
refuse this little request.

I did not refuse it.  Nothing could have been more agreeable to me
than this plan of seeing something of the sights and wonders of this
land,--and of this seeing them in good company.  I had not heard of
the Well of Moses before, but now that I learned that it was in
Asia,--in another quarter of the globe, to be reached by a transit
of the Red Sea, to be returned from by a journey on camels' backs,--
I burned with anxiety to visit its waters.  What a story would this
be for Judkins!  This was, no doubt, the point at which the
Israelites had passed.  Of those waters had they drunk.  I almost
felt that I had already found one of Pharaoh's chariot wheels.  I
readily gave my assent, and then, with much ceremony and many low
salaams, Mahmoud and his attendant left me.  "I am very glad that I
came to Suez," said I to myself.

I did not sleep much that night, for the mosquitoes of Suez are very
persevering; but I was saved from the agonising despair which these
animals so frequently produce, by my agreeable thoughts as to
Mahmoud al Ackbar.  I will put it to any of my readers who have
travelled, whether it is not a painful thing to find one's-self
regarded among strangers without any kindness or ceremonious
courtesy.  I had on this account been wretched at Cairo, but all
this was to be made up to me at Suez.  Nothing could be more
pleasant than the whole conduct of Mahmoud al Ackbar, and I
determined to take full advantage of it, not caring overmuch what
might be the nature of those previous favours to which he had
alluded.  That was his look-out, and if he was satisfied, why should
not I be so also?

On the following morning I was dressed at six, and, looking out of
my bed-room, I saw the boat in which we were to be wafted into Asia
being brought up to the quay close under my window.  It had been
arranged that we should start early, so as to avoid the mid-day sun,
breakfast in the boat,--Mahmoud in this way engaged to provide me
with two refections,--take our rest at noon in a pavilion which had
been built close upon the well of the patriarch, and then eat our
dinner, and return riding upon camels in the cool of the evening.
Nothing could sound more pleasant than such a plan; and knowing as I
did that the hampers of provisions had already been sent over, I did
not doubt that the table arrangements would be excellent.  Even now,
standing at my window, I could see a basket laden with long-necked
bottles going into the boat, and became aware that we should not
depend altogether for our morning repast on that gritty coffee which
my friend Mahmoud's followers prepared.

I had promised to be ready at six, and having carefully completed my
toilet, and put a clean collar and comb into my pocket ready for
dinner, I descended to the great gateway and walked slowly round to
the quay.  As I passed out, the porter greeted me with a low
obeisance, and walking on, I felt that I stepped the ground with a
sort of dignity of which I had before been ignorant.  It is not, as
a rule, the man who gives grace and honour to the position, but the
position which confers the grace and honour upon the man.  I have
often envied the solemn gravity and grand demeanour of the Lord
Chancellor, as I have seen him on the bench; but I almost think that
even Judkins would look grave and dignified under such a wig.
Mahmoud al Ackbar had called upon me and done me honour, and I felt

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